Shy and Retiring …

 

       A ‘fresh’ early morning – October 2017

Okay, so the ‘shy’ is no longer accurate, but ‘retiring’ will provide me with a renewed freedom. My second career (retail), has now ended and I’m a few days away from my 65th birthday. I’ve worked and paid my dues for fifty years, and I’m ready to chill-out.

What lies ahead?

I’ve listed a handful of projects to get me underway which includes a couple of days revisiting the various items in my garage, shed, and of course the attic. Apart from those small, ongoing jobs I’ve got a couple of major redecorating tasks lined up.

I’ll be continuing to draw and paint, but new hobbies on the horizon are baking and organising a vegetable patch. If the baking idea works out and I’m not totally useless I’m not worried about weight issues because I’ll also be continuing with my cycling. As recently as the weekend past I’ve ordered a new mountain bike to complement my racing bike. There are times when a writer who rides, needs to tangle with tough terrain.

In keeping with the purpose of this blog, this post is about my writing, but I’ve given an introduction to put recent followers in the picture about the person behind the titles.

I will no longer be going out to play my public part in the rat-race, but I believe my writing will be enriched by a more relaxed attitude to each day. When I stepped down from management a couple of years ago I felt a weight lifted, and my creative output rapidly increased in volume and quality.

Where will my writing go in the future?

I began with poetry and moved on to short stories before novels and novellas. My best work has been in the area of Thrillers and Romance, but I’ve also ventured into Sci-Fi and Erotica. Having attempted and realised the difficulties, I’ve left behind the option of writing for children – which is a very specialised craft. I believe we should all be aware of our limitations as well as our abilities.

I’m considering attempts at Horror, Paranormal, or Fantasy, but I’ll be leaving them until early next year, by which time my three present WIPs will be at an advanced stage.

 

How will I tackle such things as new genre?

Personally, I find an early morning, long, solo cycle ride an ideal environment to let the mind wander. While getting dressed I listen to appropriate classical music, and as I set off on my ride I consider the genre on which I want to focus. I’ll report back as and when I have new ideas developing.

 

 

What else is in the pipeline?

I’ve created many of my own covers, but used a designer for the thrillers and romance novels. I’ve been in touch with my cover designer and as we reach the new year I hope to have professional covers to support my fact-based fiction series, A Life of Choice.

What about paperback versions of my books?

This is an idea I’ve toyed with over the past two years, but I’m cautious.

It is a time-consuming task, and from all I’ve heard, the pricing is too high and not competitive. Yes, it would be nice to have my work in a physical format, but I’d prefer to be producing stories.

What’s in the mix for the near future?

To celebrate 48 years since I signed up to serve ‘Queen and Country’, there is a military theme to my final freebies. I will then end the monthly giveaways. As a thank you for all who read this post, there follows a couple of dates for your diary.

What else is cooking?

I’ve no doubt a few of you who have read my work will have smiled at the thought of me baking. At the present time I have no intentions of creating a new blog based on my new hobby, but for amusement I might slip in the odd photo of my efforts – successes and failures, although I hope to have many more of the former.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and intentions. All comments are welcome.

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Kindle, or Kobo?

The aim of this piece is to look at the two systems as a writer, and not a reader.

Why?

When it comes to eReaders there is a wide choice, and the prices reflect that choice.

As a writer, I first published with Smashwords, but apart from learning a lot about formatting, and how difficult it was to be paid for my sales … well, let’s not go there.

I moved on to Amazon and tried the KDP route. It took an hour to read the Terms and Conditions, but at least I knew where I stood by the time it came to ticking, or un-ticking little boxes.

Sales were reported, and hey, I was paid regularly. I continued to publish my work through Amazon, and when it was offered, I ventured into the KDP Select programme to gain from the many benefits offered … yeah, whatever.

Having spent many months with Amazon, I published three titles with Kobo, believing that with the big advertising campaign in the UK, it had to be a winner. Perhaps I was the only person in the country seeing the ads, or my work didn’t appeal to anybody with a Kobo.

Three months later I dropped my titles and put all my eggs in the Amazon basket, and topped off the basket by also placing them on the KDP Select listing.

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Three years have passed, and I’ve commenced building a portfolio with Kobo. If you’re familiar with KDP Select you will know there is a 90-day exclusivity clause involved. All of my titles were ‘locked-in’, but now as they are available I am publishing in both Amazon and Kobo, but not in any of the select programmes.

What has changed?

Kobo has improved, having ironed out many of the issues which existed three years ago, and now I find myself with twenty-plus titles, many of which sell regularly. I’m confident in my work, and I’m giving Kobo a six-month trial with a selection of my titles. Later in this post I’ll explain which are being left out of the equation, and why.

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If you’re a writer and you didn’t already know, Kindle and Kobo both have an exclusive loyalty programme to which you can assign your titles.

Kindle has the KDP Select:

1 – Earn higher royalties from *Kindle Unlimited and *Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, plus 70% royalties when your titles are bought in a handful of selected countries.

*Both programmes are subscription based for those who are reading the books.

2 – Use of two promotional tools (Kindle Countdown, or Free Book).

Kobo Writing Life has the Kobo Plus programme.

Kobo Plus equates roughly to KDP Select, in that the author is paid if a title is borrowed by a subscriber to the programme.

On the author side of Kobo I’ve found plenty of services. The distribution for Kobo published material is wider across the globe without having to enter into any ‘exclusive’ programme.

Kobo appears to concentrate the ‘loyalty/reward’ aspect of the business on the readers, which is fine, because those of us who write and self-publish are (or should be) readers.

If you should know differently on any of the aforementioned, please let me know.

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Tom Benson – Amazon Author Page              Tom Benson on Kobo

I’m watching closely for the first month as I select and publish titles with Kobo, and if I see sales, I’ll add more titles. When I have most of my titles in both camps, I’ll monitor sales until end October 2017.

I will not be publishing my erotica titles with Kobo due to their strict guidelines, and I’d prefer not to get into a legal tangle because I disagreed with their opinion of what is, or isn’t erotica.

As always, thank you for reading and commenting.

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My Writing Year – 2016

 

The updated catalogue:

first-twenty

As I did for 2015, I gave myself ten targets for 2016:

1.   Publication of A Life of Choice – Part One

2.   Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm Beadle

3.   Revision of each of my novels.

4.   Publication of A Time for Courage: and other military stories

5.  Produce artwork to accompany Whisper Wood, my submission for the IASD Children’s anthology

6.   Produce a short story for the next themed IASD anthology

7.  Produce one of my present novels as a paperback using CreateSpace

8 Ongoing maintenance and improvement of the IASD website / blog

9.   Read and review more titles from the IASD catalogue

10. Support of the IASD members in whatever capacity I am able

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How did the reality match up to the good intentions?

publications-of-2016

In terms of writing it’s been a year of the series for me, and apart from those mentioned, I’ve been working on Beyond The Law: Consequences, which will bring the trilogy to a close. I found writing a sequel a daunting task, but the final part of the story is proving more of a challenge. I aim to produce the book in early 2017.

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1.  I created the artwork to accompany my poem Whisper Wood for the IASD Children’s anthology.

2.  I revised and heavily edited my published work which took between two to three weeks for each book.

3.  In conjunction with the other Admins, I made a few visits to the IASD blog/website to update and keep members abreast of our news. The Featured Author will be continuing in 2017.

4.  An unexpected occurrence was becoming the mentor for a newbie erotica author. I read the debut title and found the story and writing failed in several areas. The few public reviews were praising the story, but none were justified in my opinion. Instead of damning the book publicly I left a comment on another reader’s review.

The story author got in touch and was keen to know more. I told him I wasn’t an expert, but his work needed more substance. At his request I provided a critique of the story. He pulled the book from Amazon, reworked it and sent it to me for a second opinion. It was much improved and he’s now working on his next title.

5.  I was the beta reader for a couple of our IASD authors, and I read and reviewed several books by members.

barn-owl-96.  I’ve taken brief breaks by drawing and by updating my Tom Benson Author website and my Creative Writer and Artist website.snowy-owl-004

 

In certain areas I achieved more than I expected, but there were casualties in my battle-plan.

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1.  I spent two months revising and editing Codename Koki for Malcolm Beadle, but it appears my mix of honesty, integrity, and expectation were too much. I haven’t heard from Malcolm for a few months, but I’m sure he’s working on the story and other projects.

2.  I have yet to create a paperback, so perhaps 2017 will be the year for me to try CreateSpace.

Blogging A to Z 20164 . On the social scene I had a timely reminder I am not a blogger who writes, but a writer who blogs. I entered the 2016 A to Z Challenge with the best of intentions, but after a few days I abandoned the attempt. Having completed the challenge before, I recalled many hours spent responding and reviewing and in honesty, I couldn’t justify the time. I had difficulty maintaining an interest.

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5.  Among my aims I wanted to cut down on casual social networking, and concentrate on reading and writing. I’ve been true to my goals for most of the time. This year I’ve tried to strike a balance. Not many reviews will have been seen from me because I’ve dipped into my TBR, but I’ve also read from my large collection of paperbacks.

I have an allegiance to the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, and it will remain the exception to my personal rule about social media visits.

Exposure of my writing has been assisted by my monthly ‘Freebie’ weekends on Amazon. I’ll be continuing my monthly giveaways in the coming year.

What do I have planned for 2017?

Once again my year will be dominated by ‘series’ but I’ll give more detail in my first blog post of 2017. I have an ambitious number of titles lined up for completion. A lot of the groundwork is laid and I continue to work across titles simultaneously.bike-shots-plus-033

Retirement late in 2017 means I’ll devote more time to my passion, and to my renewed interest in cycling, which is where I do a lot of my thinking and scene setting.

As always, thank you for your time, and comments.

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The Title Fight

 

The First Sixteen (2)

So many titles fighting to be the chosen one ….

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Writers by nature will read an abundance of ‘top tips’ on their craft.

Is it because we all want to be the best?

Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2

An individual story title, which is itself a well-known phrase.

I would suggest not. Whatever our reasons for writing, I believe the majority of us read top tips to improve our craft.

We don’t want to be the one whom everybody else is calling ‘comma man’, or ‘she who loves exclamation marks!!!

The driving force for us is to write, followed by the desire to do so to the best of our ability.

Some of us will work tirelessly, aiming to improve with every sentence, paragraph, chapter, and ultimately book – or title.

We are in this strange world through personal choice. We learn through comments, suggestions, tips, textbooks, and sheer hard work. We want what works best on several levels.

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Titles are right up there in the ‘top tips’.

Personally, I’ve given up on the 1,001 theories. For example: Should we avoid anything which sounds like a famous book or film? Should we use a cliché? Should we use one word, or a phrase? The list of methods is endless.

TomB4

The basis of the story

In the end, it is an individual choice.

Take for example the title of this article. I’ve checked over many hundreds of blog posts and found there is little correlation between the day an article is posted and its success.

Where have I found the most comments, or most success?

Yes, for me, the secret is in a catchy title.

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When I choose a title for a poem, short story, or novel it sometimes takes longer than the piece of work. I can end up with a considerable list, but the deliberation is worthwhile.

I can honestly say I wouldn’t change the title of any of my individual short stories or books, because I spent so long getting to the end result.

This blog post is an exception, because I came up with the title first.

Recruits outside a Sandhurst Block in Catterick

A series title with a meaningful sub-title for each part.

For my various books I’ve tried to use a title which would work without a book cover. I know it will sound strange if you’re a writer, because we constantly discuss how important the cover is for a book.

What about a blind or partially-sighted person who judges by what they hear?

They might depend on ‘hearing’ the book. They’ll hear a list of titles, and they’ll hear the blurbs, but they might never ‘see’ the cover, so it becomes meaningless.

I want my titles to convey an image before the cover is created.

You’ll have seen notes under the books I’ve chosen to highlight in this article. Clicking on these graphics will take you to the book’s page.

If you’ve read this far I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed my theories, and perhaps you’ll take something away from here.

Highland Games - 1 (2)

A play on words, using a euphemism for the new novella series.

I thank you for seeing the title of the post and taking an interest.

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F is for … Felines

 

F is for – Flounder, Fulmar, and Felines. We’ll look at Felines.

I will say up front, I am not a ‘pet’ person so I don’t have a cat, or any other domestic animals – however, of all the creatures in the natural world the big cats are my favourites.

In the world of cats apart from the domestic variety which is numerous in sub-species, there are also the smaller cats, like Wildcat (various countries of origin), Serval, Civet, Ocelot, Caracal and many others.

We then move on to the big cats, which include the Lion, Tiger, Cheetah, Leopard, Puma, Lynx, Jaguar, Snow Leopard, and Black Panther.

In this special post I’d like to highlight my top three which are the Cheetah, Tiger, and Lion.

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CheetahSpecies: Cheetah – the fastest land animal. This beautiful creature can attain speeds up to 70mph over a short distance (100 yards). It has a streamlined body, long tail for balance, and dark stripes from inner corner of the eyes to the mouth (thought to have evolved to prevent sun-glare).

 

Size: Body bulk is more akin to a domestic Greyhound than a Labrador. The Cheetah can reach up to 6ft from nose to tail.

Habitat: Wide open plains and savannahs.

Location: In a few African countries in the wild, but many more in private parks and game reserves. A small number exist in Iran where they are a protected species. They were once found across most of Africa, India and, southern Asia.

Diet: Small birds and animals. Favourites include the Impala and, Thompson’s Gazelle (with the distinctive black diagonal stripe on the flank).

Predators: Mankind is the front-runner (ironically with this creature) – although he uses a rifle, traps, or poison. The adults can fall to hyenas or lions. A cheetah must kill and, eat quickly before the larger animals turn up to steal the carcass. Cubs can be taken by eagles.

Info / Strange Fact: Unlike other cats, the cheetah cannot retract its claws.

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TigerSpecies: Tiger – the largest of the big cats. The sub-species are Bengal, Siberian, Sumatran, Indochinese and, South China.

Size: Siberian Tigers are the largest sub-species. Like all tigers it has a bulky body, which is not surprising at 1,000lbs. It can reach up to 10ft in length from nose to tail.

 

Habitat: Hot jungles, woodland and, ice-cold forests.

Location: Russia, India, China, Southern Asia and, Sumatra (an island species).

Diet: Cattle, wild pigs and deer are the primary food source, although smaller game will be taken when the need arises.

Predators: Mankind. Hunting was a primary reason, but has now been overtaken by ‘poaching’ to secure the skin and body parts for ‘medicinal’ purposes.

Info / Strange Facts: Many stories are told of ‘man-eating’ tigers. Like any big cat, these creatures become ‘man-eaters’ for a few simple reasons. The animal is too old, infirm through injury to hunt the preferred prey. It can also occur because the tiger’s massive hunting territory/ habitat have been destroyed. On occasion it is purely the need to survive and to a tiger – a human is a meal.

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lionSpecies: Lion – the most commonly named in everyday language. Although not the largest of the big cats, the lion is undoubtedly the ‘King’, complete in the case of the males with his huge mane.

There is still a small number (200 – 300) of the sub-species Asiatic Lion

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*The lion appeared on eggs as a quality stamp for many years.

*MGM films feature a roaring lion in the opening sequence of their films.

*‘The lion’s share’ is an everyday phrase which stems from the lion having first rights to the meal.

*‘The lion’s den’ is still widely used as a euphemism for going into a dangerous environment (including interview scenarios).

*‘Feed him to the lions’ usually means a theoretical ‘sacrifice’ of an individual – like an employee being used as a scapegoat.

Size: Up to 420lbs and, up to 9ft in length from nose to tail. The male lion’s mane creates the illusion to an opponent that the animal is larger or heavier than it is.

The Asiatic Lion is smaller in size and the male has a smaller mane with less of a crown.

Habitat: Open plains and savannahs.

Location: Africa and India (the almost extinct Asiatic Lion).

Diet: Zebra, Giraffe, Wildebeest (Gnu), Deer, Buffalo, larger antelopes like Kudu and Ibex and baby Elephants.

Predators: Not surprisingly, mankind is the main opponent to the lion’s survival.

Info / Strange Facts: The lionesses are usually the hunters and supply the meals, but the males play the role of protector of the pride and its territory. The male lion’s mane creates the illusion of the animal being bigger, but this massive growth of hair also acts as protection when there is a duel between two male lions. It prevents teeth or claws reaching the neck.

In the tuft of a male lion’s tail is a small horny growth, which is as yet unexplained.

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E is for … Eagle

 

E is for – Elephant, Eel, and Eagle. We’ll look at Eagle.

Eagles are known to vary in size, but when the word eagle is used it usually conjures up visions of the Fish Eagle, Bald Eagle, or Golden Eagle. These birds are without doubt the royalty of our feathered friends.

They are regal in pose and stature, and are the most powerful of all birds of prey.

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Eagle

 

Species: There are 59 species of Eagle which are broken into four recognisable groups.

1. Serpent or Snake Eagles are the smallest sub-species.

2. Buzzard / Woodland Eagles, have longer tails, but shorter wings.

3. Sea Eagles, which are among the largest and specialise in catching fish and turtles.

4. Booted Eagles like the Golden Eagle.

Size: From pigeon-sized Serpent / Snake Eagles up to the Golden Eagle which can weigh in at around 20lbs and have a wingspan up to 8ft.

Habitat: The range of nesting sites is dependent on the bird, so the smaller species will be found in rock crevices, woodland and high altitude forestry. The Sea-Eagles will nest on islands, high in trees or cliff-faces. The Golden Eagle nests high in mountain ranges.

Location: The eagle in its various forms inhabits the entire planet and every continent has its home-grown specialised eagle.

Diet: As might be expected the range of food is as widespread as the birds themselves. The larger the bird – the larger the prey. Serpent-Eagles are small and will take small snakes and rodents. Rabbits and similar small animals are a favourite with most eagles. The Golden Eagle and other eagles of a similar size will take lambs or deer. Like all birds and animals they will go for smaller prey in times of need.

Predators: Once again mankind can take the credit for causing harm to these wonderful birds. The theft of eggs is only a problem for the smaller species, but the greatest hazard overall is caused by destruction of habitat. The birds have few natural enemies.

Info / Strange Fact: Being eagle-eyed is not simply a phrase. The eagle has increased components within the structure of its eyes. To put this in perspective, the Golden Eagle can see a rabbit at 2 miles distance.

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D is for … Dolphin

 

D is for – Dingo, Dolphin, and Dipper. We’ll look at Dolphin.

Dolphins are highly intelligent animals and have acute hearing, in or out of water. They are known to be sociable creatures, but like so many others, the males will become aggressive when in competition for a female. (Yes, don’t we know all about that aspect of life).

Having fought to get the female, the male (bull) relinquishes all duties regarding the young calf, which it leaves in the care of the mother (cow).

Dolphins have been responsible on many occasions for saving humans from shark attacks and, the dolphin’s ‘beak’ is a considerable weapon when used as a battering ram.

A group of dolphins is called a ‘school’ or ‘pod’.Dolphin

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Species: There are 40 recognised species of dolphin. Porpoises are mistakenly thought by some people to belong to the dolphin family, but, they are a separate group entirely.

Size: Due to the inclusion of Killer Whales in the Dolphin family, the size differential is extensive. The creatures of the many species referred to as ‘Dolphins’ are on average 5 feet long from nose to tail. Killer Whales (Orca) will grow to around 30 feet long.

Habitat: There are oceanic dolphins and river-based dolphins.

Location: Dolphin species of some description can be found in almost any open sea or oceanic area of the world.

Diet: Fish and Squid are the staple diet, although the Orca (Killer Whale) will take seals, or small whales.

Predators: Dolphins are actively hunted in certain places (Japan and, The Faroe Islands). Numbers are depleted regularly by mankind through pollution, accidents with boats and, bycatch (being caught in nets and drowning).

Info / Strange Facts: The inhabitants of Tahiji in Japan and those of the Faroe Islands consider the dolphin as food. There is a level of karma, in that dolphin meat is high in mercury, which is of course poisonous to humans.

In Laguna, Santa Catarina, Brazil, dolphins assist the local fishermen by driving the fish towards the shore. The dolphins take the fish which escape the nets.

The idea of a Military Marine Mammal Program (MMMP) has existed for over 50 years. The USA and Russia have conducted a variety of training and active service using Bottlenose Dolphins. Russia is said to have ceased the enterprise, however the US is open about the continued use of the animals.

The official training is said to be to locate persons in the water and to locate mines, however certain other practices are thought to be in existence, although not admitted.

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C is for … Coral Snake

 

C is for – Cheetah, Coral Snake, and Condor.

We’ll look at Coral Snake.

The Coral Snake is well-known for its bright red, yellow, and black hooped skin. Several other snake species have developed a similar colour scheme to mimic the Coral Snake, which is useful because it portrays the non-venomous creatures as dangerous.

There is a rhyme used to remind people how to tell the difference. The rhyme is based on whether or not the red and yellow bands are touching. In more recent years it’s been discovered the simple verse is no longer accurate because of the impersonators.

An accurate, if slightly dangerous method of telling the difference is the bands on a Coral Snake encircle the body, as opposed to being an upper-body decoration.

In respect of the strength of its venom this creature is regarded as second only to the Black Mamba.

*****coral snake

Species: One of few creatures which have two distinct groups before considering sub-species.

The first group are ‘Old World’ where there are 70 species.

The second group are ‘New World’ in which there are 15 species.

Size: They’re a particularly thin creature, some sub-species being as narrow as a pen or pencil. In length they may range from 15 inches to 36 inches dependent on species.

Habitat: The creatures are nocturnal. Old World species will tend to spend daylight hours underground or under leaf-litter. New World species would normally be found in rocky areas of desert, with a tendency to burrow, like most desert-dwelling creatures.

Location: Old World species: Asia. New World species: The Americas.

Diet: Other small snakes, amphibians, lizards.

Predators: Birds of Prey, Foxes, Raccoons, Skunks, and Mongooses.

Info / Strange Facts: In many species, the Coral Snake has a black, bullet shaped head and, a black tail section, which means at first glance it’s difficult to tell whether you are looking at the head or tail. Like most snakes the tail is pointed, rather than bullet-shaped. Due the colour of the head it makes it difficult to see the eyes.

This snake is known to coil its head within its body and raise the tail when confronted, thus leaving a predator to attack the tail. The Coral Snake is more likely to avoid confrontation by slithering into a hole, or crack, or burrowing out of sight.

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B is for … Basilisk

 

B is for Basilisk, Barracuda and Buzzard. We’ll look at Basilisk.

There are many lizards but the Green, Plumed, or Double-Crested Basilisk is one of the best-known. The creature has a bright green skin and, distinctive yellow eyes. From head to tip of tail it carries an almost continuous fin, or crest.

There are stretchable areas of skin between its toes similar to, but not as pronounced as those on an amphibian like a frog, toad or newt. The Basilisk can swim underwater for up to 30 minutes.

Basilisk

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Species: The Basilisk is a member of the Iguana family of lizards.

Size: The average length from nose to tail is 25cm, however they are known to reach 90cm.

Habitat: The sub-species can be found in tropical rain forest and, rocky formations, usually where there is a water source.

Location: Generally found across Central America: Western Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

Diet: Basilisk species are omnivores and will eat insects, small rodents, smaller lizards and, vegetation including flowers.

Predators: Snakes and birds.

Info / Strange Fact: The Basilisk is famed for its ability to ‘run’ on water in an upright stance on its hind legs and tail. Hence the creature is known in some quarters as the ‘Jesus Lizard’.

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A is for … Albatross

 

A is for Anteater, Aphid, and Albatross.

We’ll look at Albatross.

The albatross is one of the largest seabirds, and spends most of its life soaring and gliding many miles from land. Lifespan depending on sub-species can last 40 or 50 years.

Albatross

 

 

Species: 21 species are on record, although many are endangered.

Size: Wandering Albatross can reach up to 1 metre in body length with a wingspan of 3.5 metres (10 feet).

Habitat: Sky and open ocean.

Location: Pacific Ocean, mainly found in the southern regions.

Diet: Crab, Fish, Krill, Squid

Predators: Humans, Tiger Shark – which lay in wait off the coast during the breeding season; at the time fledglings leave the nest.

Info / Strange Facts: The albatross is one of many seabirds which have the ability to drink saltwater. Some species can spend their first six or seven years in flight.

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